Colossians 4 – Seeking Justice for Slaves

The bulk of this chapter is personal greetings from Paul to his friends and associates. I don’t have much to say about them, except that they provide an example for investing in other people’s lives. You (the reader) may not know Aristarchus, but if Aristarchus asks you (Paul) to send greetings to the Colossian church from him and Barnabas’s cousin Mark and Jesus who is called Justus, then you (still Paul) send those greetings. Keep in touch with the important people in your life. (Confession: I am mostly terrible at this.) But today I wanted to focus on the first verse of the chapter, which concludes Paul’s previous words on masters and slaves.

Isaiah 3 – Bald Women, Retributive Justice, and Grinding the Face of the Poor

I can’t read Isaiah 3 without thinking of Johnny Q. Public’s song “Women of Zion.” Isaiah 3 ends with a denunciation of the daughters of Zion’s arrogance, saying that God will strip them of their beauty and ornamentation. I’m pretty sure it influenced Peter’s exhortation to humility for women in 1 Peter 3:1-6, but it also inspired Johnny Q. Public to write a musical interpretation of the passage with ludicrously literal lyrics. Consider the chorus: “Bald women, should’ve been humble; Bald women, should’ve been smarter; Bald women: you’re bald because you’re bald.” Sheer genius.

[On Sabbath] Restlessness and Recreational Idolatry (Amos)

Have I told the story of the time I got in trouble for losing my TV privileges? No? Okay, let’s open with that one. One Saturday morning when I was 8, I got my TV privileges revoked. I don’t remember what evil I had committed to incur such a penalty, but that morning when my parents took me to Queen City Fitness center, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV in the lounge. However, they hadn’t said anything about hearing TV. So, while my dad went swimming and my mom went to her aerobics class, I went behind the lounge couch and listened to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the couch blocking my view of the TV. When dad found me behind the couch, back to the TV set, I received a stern lecture about the letter and the spirit of the law. And I relate that story because 1) you’ve got to introduce your blog post somehow, and 2) the letter and the spirit of the law are what today’s passage from the prophet Amos are all about.

[On Sabbath] Exodus 5:1-9: No-Sabbath Zone

In our study on the Sabbath today, like yesterday, we’re looking at a letter-for-letter appearance not of the English word “Sabbath,” but of the Hebrew word shabath, “to rest.” When Moses and Aaron are pushing for Pharaoh to let the enslaved Hebrews celebrate a feast to the Lord, Pharaoh uses the word when he denies their request. He repudiates Moses and Aaron: “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” (Exodus 5:5). The word translated “cease” here is shabath. Pharaoh forbids them from stopping: not only are they denied a weekend, they are denied a vacation. Welcome to Egypt, the No-Sabbath Zone, the Labor Hole.

Psalm 82 – Social Justice Asaph

On behalf of Asaph, I’d like to welcome you to Psalm 82’s courtroom. “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers” (1), the psalm opens. God judges the judges, holding those in power accountable for siding with evil men and not going to bat for their victims. Asaph describes the corrupt authorities-turned-defendants as blinded and ignorant: “They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness” (5). He closes the psalm with a call for God to deliver the verdict and issue the sentence. Asaph is a social justice warrior.

[The Gospel According to…] Luke 6:20, Luke 18:18-27

Of the six instances of the word “gospel” in Luke, two of them (Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22) are references to Isaiah 61:1, “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted.” Three are simply statements that John the Baptist, the apostles, or Jesus himself are preaching the gospel (Luke 3:18, Luke 9:6, Luke 20:1). And then there’s one where Jesus says, “Since [John the Baptist’s] time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached” (Luke 16:16). We’ve looked at all of these, and I’m still not feeling like I’ve got a handle on how Luke would state what the gospel is, so I’m going to dig a little deeper.

[The Gospel According to…] Luke 7:22, Luke 9:1-9

Luke 9 starts with Jesus sending out the apostles to cast out demons and heal diseases. He instructs them to travel radically light–no bag, no cash, no food, one change of clothes, bare necessities. And as they go from village to village bringing healing, they’re also preaching the gospel. What are they saying? What are their words?

[The Gospel According to…] Luke 3:7-18

Welcome to Luke. The first mention of the gospel comes as the coda to a passage of John the Baptist’s preaching: “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people” (18). His preaching, however, is hardly a message of comfort and consolation. He calls his audience a “brood of vipers,” (7) tells them that the axe is at the root of the trees (9), ready to cut down those that don’t bear fruit, and warns that the coming Messiah will separate the wheat from the chaff and burn up the chaff (17). Good news, judgment is at hand!

[The Gospel According to…] Mark 10:17-31

Today’s passage: Mark 10:17-31 Yesterday, I concluded that investigating the kingdom of God and what it stands for will give us insights into the gospel. Conveniently, today’s passage explicitly mentions both the kingdom of God and the gospel. So, a man with lots of property is unwilling to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds […]